Spend the day in my shoes as I take you behind the scenes of a wedding photographer
A friend of mine once asked me what I charged as a wedding photographer. He was taken aback when I told him “what . . that much for just turning up and pressing a button” A common misconception held by many believe this all a wedding photographer does. When I started I soon found out that this is simply not the case.
Deciding to become a Wedding photographer takes a fairly large commitment, not to mention a hefty chunk of your salary! To begin with, you have to research and buy the best camera you can afford. Having a back up to hand in case it fails. Practice and mastery of your camera so that all the settings for any given situation are correct, has to become second nature.
A real apprenticeship
Despite having owned a multitude of cameras since the 70’s I practised for about 2 yrs solid. I concentrated on the specific techniques, that are required to actually become a wedding photographer. Sometimes I would take the camera into work to nail a particular problem. I would enlist the help of friends and eventually hiring models who would pose, and help me to develop a style. I went from shooting everything on “auto” to finally shooting in “manual” which has complete control over everything I do.
Of course then we have the wedding photography itself. How to manage the day, handling problems as they arise, knowing how to conduct photo sessions. Being efficient, knowing what happens when and where and to be one step ahead. Being confident and being able to manage all this, whilst remaining calm and professional takes time. Experience is not something that comes overnight, nor can it be purchased.
Meeting my clients
Work starts on the day of the initial consultation. I visit the couple and take down all the essential details about their wedding. At this stage, I can offer valuable advice drawing upon my experience. This really helps when managing expectations.
Meeting a couple prior to the wedding day is very important. We will be spending the whole day together and need to have some kind of connection. Personally, this is not simply about making money. I do love my job as a wedding photographer. I do feel that I have to connect with a couple in order to deliver a service that is unique to them.
What do you mean your shy?
At the same time, I like to do a short photography session. This gives them a chance to see me at work behind a camera. I get to see how they respond to having their picture taken. Some people are really natural, whilst others are pretty nervous and need time to relax.
It’s important to do this as its one less thing to worry about on the day. Imagine how a bride must feel having a wedding photographer turn up on the biggest day of her life after a phone call and a couple of e-mails.
Before leaving I ask to connect on facebook so that I can keep in touch. This helps to reassure the couple that they have made the right choice. I make a point of keeping my social media active right up to the day of the wedding.
Here are some examples of my engagement photography
When I get home I download the day’s shots, then edit them all to a professional standard. Uploading them to my online gallery at jmphotographyweddings.com. with a password granting access to a private area. Here they can view be viewed and downloaded free of charge. Then I draw up a contract and make sure it covers everything that is expected by both parties.
My equipment ritual
The week before a wedding my equipment is inspected making sure it’s all in good working order. I only use Pro spec Canon Lenses and camera’s, three I will use throughout the day and one in reserve. All the lenses will be cleaned, all the cards will be formatted. Flashes are all in working order, and the laptops are charged. The day before the wedding I will charge all the batteries. I also pack a spare shirt lots of water and some energy bars.
The big day is finally here!
On the morning of the wedding, I usually get up quite early. I’m feeling energized, slightly nervous but mostly I’m really excited about all that lies before me. My shirts are ironed, shoes are cleaned, and the car is packed. Before I set off I text the bride to let her know I’m on my way. I leave with plenty of time to spare, so I can factor in any problems I may encounter. Arriving at the house or venue, I make contact with the bride and introduce myself to her entourage.
This time of the day is fantastic. We all get to know each other, and it makes my job that much easier later on. By the end of this period, everyone knows who I am. The atmosphere is very relaxed, and by this time I have gained everyone’s trust. This makes it easier for great photographs throughout the day.
Meeting the guests
After this part of the day is over and I’ve got all the shots I need, I head for the venue. Before I continue I will change the cards in my cameras, putting away safely the morning’s shots. I like to get some of the more “formal” shots at this time, plus some “must have” shots of the groom and best man. Photographs of guests arriving at the venue, small groups and checking off the list of photographs the couple have specifically requested.
Now its time to meet the registrar and find out what I can and cannot do. Most of the time I am asked to stay in one place, and not move around at all. As a wedding photographer, I do have to abide by the wishes of the people officiating the ceremony. Mostly I will choose one good vantage point that allows me to get good shots of the proceedings and generally I know what works and what does not.
I’ve got the best seat in the house!
I need to choose the best position to get the ring shot and most importantly – the kiss shot! After the ceremony, its outside to do all the group, family and friends photographs. This can be quite hectic and I’ve learned that this needs to be done as quickly and as efficiently as possible before people disperse and get to the bar!
After all the “formals ” have been done everyone now gets time to mingle, have a drink and maybe canapes. I quietly whisk the newlyweds off to a location that I have previously scouted for a photo session, away from all the hustle and bustle. These photographs are the first of them as husband and wife, this will last usually from 20 minutes to an hour depending on the schedule. This is where the photo shoot we did on the consultation comes into play. They are generally very relaxed and already know how I work, I have their complete trust and I always try to make this session fun and creative, using the backdrops and surroundings
At this point, everybody will now be ushered inside to eat, and I take this opportunity to sit down and take a breather, maybe have a couple of energy bars and drink plenty of water, it is important to stay hydrated throughout the day. Once again changing my memory cards The speeches follow the meal and once again it’s time to capture all the proceedings. I now have no restrictions and can move about freely capturing all the emotions, laughter and the atmosphere
Let the festivities commence!
As an imaginative wedding photographer, I also love this part of the day as it allows me to really get creative with my shots. After the speeches, it’s time to prepare for the evenings fun. At this point, I download a selection of images from the days’ photography onto my laptop for the evening slideshow. I offer this on my Gold package and I find it goes down very well as a “sneak preview” of the day’s events, and for those guests arriving just for the evening’s entertainment.
The room is cleared, guests disappear, the DJ arrives, and I introduce myself. I do have a very powerful video light that I use just for the cake cutting and first dance shots, this together with the correct lens choice gets me all the lovely ambient shots that are crucial for capturing the emotions that go with the first dance together as husband and wife, after that I’m getting packed away and its almost time to leave the party. One thing I was not prepared for that suddenly hits you at this point, having spent months thinking about this day, preparing for this day, and investing in this day chatting to the bride on Facebook, exchanging E-Mails. texts etc….suddenly it’s time to go our separate ways, it’s time to officially say goodbye the emotions can catch you by surprise
Post Wedding Production – now the real work begins!
As soon as I get home no matter what time, I download all the day’s photography onto my computer. I then back-up onto two separate external hard drives, that way I am covered in case of problems. Photographs do not exist until you back up twice.
It’s actually quite exciting as a wedding photographer to look at all the shots and see how I’ve done. Over the next couple of days, I shall begin sorting through the images. These are then sorted into folders and now the editing process can begin.
Back in the days, I spent as a musician I did lots of recording in my home studio. I played all the instruments, sang all the vocals and I really enjoyed the creative process of recording. However, when it came time to get it all into the computer for mixing, it was then that the project really came alive. So it is for my wedding photography. Getting all the shots into the editor, and generally tweaking them to make them look spectacular is very satisfying. This is something I have learned how to do over many years.
The “digital darkroom”
This process cannot be hurried I edit each photograph individually. If it was a full day’s coverage, this can mean looking and editing several hundred photographs. Normally I go through the process at least twice with a fresh pair of eyes. This ensures I am completely satisfied with the results, and can take anything from 2 to 6 weeks.
Now it’s time to get in touch with the couple and inform them that their photographs are ready. As before I will email them providing them with a password for my online gallery. As a courtesy, I will not post my work onto any social media until the couple has seen them. I wouldn’t want to pre-empt their “unveiling”
I really love being a wedding photographer it truly is a magical, emotional and extremely satisfying experience, and to be entrusted with the responsibility of recording such an event is not something to be taken lightly. There are no second chances, I can’t back up and request another go – it’s a one-shot take and one-shot deal with career-destroying consequences if I get it wrong.
To be able to handle this is something that takes time, experience, and a particular mindset. This is a one-off event and is the most important day in a couple’s life. It probably cost an arm and a leg, and I need to be able to think on my feet, solve problems, keep calm and do the job I have been paid to do. Photographs that will probably be viewed over the next three generations. (mm no pressure then)
Will the real “Uncle Bob please stand up”
There are thousands of wedding photographers in the UK some are professionals who have been at it for years. Many are people who simply own a digital camera, and think they have what it takes to be a wedding photographer. It’s not just about taking photographs there is marketing, the business side of it all and then, the investment.
Personally, I own four pro-spec cameras and about four grand’s worth of lenses. Known as “prime lenses” they are specialist items allowing me to work beyond the scope of a “kit lens”. These are cheap lenses that come with your basic low-end consumer camera.
Lighting equipment, cases, computers, laptops, a projector and I know all of this equipment inside out. I have insurance, an online gallery and have to constantly keep updating trying out new ideas to get those “wow” shots and stay one step ahead of my peers. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, it must be hard for any prospective bride searching for her perfect photographer.
So, there you have it that is roughly how a day is spent at jmphotography shooting a wedding. Each wedding is different but generally, that is how a typical full day is spent. And I am sure you will agree it’s a lot more than just turning up and clicking a few shots